In 1965; as a pimple faced 15 year old in Keansburg New Jersey’s amusement park; I walked up to the owner / operator of Fun City USA Mr. Bob Falk; and asked: “Can you use any help here in your arcade”? Bob smiled and replied “Well what can you do kid”? Of course knowing all there is to know in the world at 15 I replied “Anything”! His reply was “Well, I must hire myself someone who can do anything; come on by tomorrow morning to get started”.
That was 57 years ago and to this day Bob and I keep in touch as he recently celebrated his 86th birthday!
I had the opportunity to work with a Team of skilled technicians resolving the common issues of electro-mechanical (pinball, candy, cigarette, and other vending machines) and mechanical coin operated amusement games such as the most famous “SKEEBALL” complete with the quadrant gear used to reset the score drum from 0 to 450 pts which has a tendency to wear out quite often..
My job the first year was to clean the exterior of the games, give out change on the floor and hand out tickets for the redemption games.,Shortly after starting I was allowed to begin cleaning and waxing the playing fields of the pinball machines as they quickly realized I took care not to damage anything while cleaning the exterior of the games. Not to mention how quickly I learned what they meant when they sent me to the supply room for elbow grease! To this day I believe someone will package a can of elbow grease for the next generation of technicians and engineers.
The following year, I quickly began to clean and or replace defective components in the game (Contacts, Relays, Solenoids, and mechanical components).
Then I met the most amazing technician of them all “Carmen Mamano”. Carmen was the creator of the now famous Midway game “RaceWay” (recently sold for $27,500.00). Carmen took me under his wings and taught me two of the most valuable pieces of information any technician or engineer needs to know:
- How to read a ladder schematic for the games
- How to use a multi-meter
Having mastered reading schematics and measuring both voltage and resistance, I quickly (by 1969) became the goto guy in the shop for the more challenging and difficult faults to diagnose; intermittent and timing failures.
Fast forward as I enter the twilight of my career. I finished high school in ‘69, received an associates degree in' 72, a technicians diploma from RCA school of electronics in Camden NJ in '73. I.continued working in FUN CITY full time until the fall of 1975. I was a member of the local volunteer first aid and fire department. In talking with a member of the Fire Department, with my background he suggested I take a look at an electronics company in Eatontown, NJ called Electronics Associates Inc (EAI). I went there to knock on the door and ask if they needed any help in the facility; however, on my way I first came to a manufacturing firm called “Interdata”. I walked in the front door, asked the receptionist if they needed any help. I was directed to the HR where they actually showed interest (No, they did not ask me what I could do for them)! Instead, they handed me a test. After they evaluated my results they had a few questions regarding my answers to some of the questions. For example, why did I choose NONE for the symbol of a plug? I said because the symbol is an AND gate and when the two inputs are active, then and only then would the output be active. The choice of answers did not allow for the selection of an AND gate.
After 20 years working for Interdata who was purchased by Perkin Elmer, and later sold back to the leadership team our new name became “Concurrent Computer Corporation” as parallel processing in the late 1980’s was becoming more and more popular.
My career then took me to Digital Equipment Computer (DEC) later purchased by Compaq, then HP. I left the comfort of working near the Jersey Shore in 1999 for a position with a DOT COM startup called InterWorld. That position lasted until 911 as the Venture Capitalists from Nevada pulled the plug on our funding (Hmmm… 2001 was not the time to be working for a DOT COM startup anyway). I would have left anyway as after that day in NYC as myself and others found our way off the island I declared “I’m going into the defense industry”! I did just that and have been working on government programs ever since with companies like Lockheed Martin, US Coast Guard in Washington DC, CACI in MD, followed by EOIR in Eatontown NJ on a US Army program out of the Picatinny Arsenal Base in Wharton NJ. Here I realized I don’t care who signs my paycheck as long as it is made out to me as EOIR merged with Polaris Alfa, then and most recently and presently PARSONS Corporation.
So here I am after 57 years since cleaning amusement games, working a reduced work week of 3 days for the US Army.
Now comes the exciting path of my career which has gone full circle. I now work one day a week for Coastal Amusements out of Lakewood NJ. Here I repair (well learning to repair) surface mount logic boards consisting of both analog and digital circuitry for the gaming industry. My work is under a microscope as I locate defects and replace SMD components.
So there you have it in a nutshell; Cleaning Games, Repairing Games, Testing Computers, Engineering corrections to computer firmware, software, and hardware. Teaching at Monmouth University in both Computer Science and Systems Engineering as an Adjunct over the years, to leading the Test Engineering Department of the US Army’s next generation of Situational Software.
I owe all of my successes to Mr. Bob Falk and Mr. Carmen Mamano. Fun CIty provided me with a sandbox to play and learn, Carmen provided me with an amazing insight into electro mechanical devices. Mistakes along the way; many; but each taught me something new!